Spamish Inquisition

You didn’t expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition…

… but we have to deal with some 200 emails a day; amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as: ruthless efficiency, speed reading and an almost fanatical devotion to the delete key.

attachments . tofu . tidy mail . scams & hoaxes . references

If email messages demanding your attention exceed your physical ability to deal with them, the following advice might help you avoid email bankruptcy*.

If you send emails in the hope or expectation that we, or others, will actually read them, then this advice may ensure that they are kept out of the trash bin.

Coping With Your Incoming Mail

  • Filter your mail with a ruthless efficiency.
  • Use an email provider that has an effective spam filter – Greennet, Riseup & GoogleMail work for us. Others recommend Thunderbird.
  • Find out how your email package handles filters, folders and searches (as well as spam).
  • Set up filters to move incoming messages from your inbox to separate folders.
    • Distinguish between action information, which you have to act on or respond to sooner rather than later, and reference information, which you can filter out and find with a search when needed.
    • Messages relating to a specific project can be more efficiently dealt with when you are focussed on that project.
    • Messages from a mailing list may only need occasional attention.
  • Develop your ‘wetware’ spam filter.
    • Your brain is better than any software in identifying trends in unwanted mail.
    • Browse through your Trash folder before emptying it; try to identify patterns to help set up filters to automatically trash stuff that you otherwise delete manually.
  • Develop an almost fanatical devotion to the [delete] key

Help others cope with (and possibly read) your messages

  • Only send messages that are wanted.
    • If we find that a sender regularly sends messages that are not relevant to our work we set up filters to delete or archive everything from that sender … unread.
    • Avoid spreading Tofu: Think twice before sending, or especially forwarding, to a mailing list. It might be better to target those individual contacts that will actually appreciate the message.

  • Include a clear subject line
    • If the first five words do not make clear the content of the message, it may not get opened. Some browsers will not fit longer subject lines into the window width.
    • Obscure subject lines will annoy rather than engage a busy person and your message may be deleted … unread.
    • Do not begin your Subject line “Urgent” – that may be your opinion, but the word ‘Urgent’ is often used by spammers, so your message may be deleted … unread.
    • Do not put the subject line in all capitals – this is SHOUTING. It is annoying and your message may be deleted … unread.
    • Do not repeat in the subject line anything that is already implied from the senders name or email address, or from the tagging of mailing list messages.
      … for example: If your name in Tom, your email address is tom@veggies.org.uk and you are contributing to a mailing list tagged [VeggiesNews] there in no point putting “Message from Tom at Veggies with news of an important subject”…
      … just put a short phrase stating the nature of the ‘important subject’ contained in the message.

  • Keep it tidy
    • Write your message clearly and review it before sending.
    • Don’t be scared to use the line-feed or [enter] key – it adds just one character to the actual size of your message, but a well spaced message is much easier to read than a solid block of text.
    • IF forwarding to a mailing list tidy it up: take out all the superfluous header and footer info, remove any email addresses that are not relevant (protects privacy too) and check than any included URL links actually work.

      If you spend 15 seconds making the message readable, to save 100 people 15 seconds each when reading it, you will collectively save 25 minutes to spend more usefully. What goes around comes round. Compare with this.

  • Avoid Attachments – they burn up resources and are a common conduit for viruses. more on attachments below.


The “Four D’s” model for decision-making

The “Four D’s” are:

  • Delete it

  • Do it
  • Delegate it
  • Defer it


By deciding which one to do, you can quickly remove email from the Inbox.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you need to work on keeping your Inbox under control every day.

Microsoft claims that its statistics show that of the email you receive:

• 50 percent can be deleted or filed

• 30 percent can be delegated or completed in less than two minutes

• 20 percent can be transferred to your Task List or Calendar if you use Outlook, or if not, to your own To do list.

It also reckons that, using the Four Ds model, most people can deal with up to 100 emails per hour and if you receive more than that a day, you are probably over-stretched.

…top…



Regarding attachments

(with reference to Riseup.net)

* First and foremost, large attachments are not needed if you can instead send a link to the file stored elsewhere on the web. Shared web spaces allow a list subscriber to upload a file using their web browser. When you send out an email, include the URL of the file in the shared web space. Other subscribers can then download the file using their web browser, if they want it.

* Typically, a large attachment will not be relevant for every member of the list. Only those people who are interested in the attachment should have to spend the time to download it.

* Your message will be more effective if it is brief. No one wants a book in their in-box. If you have a lot which needs to be said, say it quickly and provide a way for people to get more information on the topic if they are interested.

* Large attachments can be very costly for independent mail providers that pay for whatever bandwidth is used. For example, suppose you sent a 1 meg PDF flyer as an attachment to a list with 100 subscribers. All you have to upload is the 1 meg file, but the server then must send out 100 megs. Also, they have to archive the attachment and keep backups of it forever. As long as message size is small, this is manageable.

* The infrastructure for internet email is not geared to handle large attachments. Basically, big files mess everything up. For this reason, most mail servers restrict the size of email.

* If you attach large files to your email, you can easily push people over their storage quota.

More from http://mjr.towers.org.uk/email.html#attachments

Actually, it’s worse than that: attaching a non-text file to an email expands it by about a third, so for a 1Mb attachment to 100 people the servers would send out over 130Mb.

On top of that, we can add the electricity and other costs of servers scanning that attachment for viruses 100 times. Attachments aren’t just expensive for the mail providers: they waste energy. In 2010, servers were responsible for 2.5% of energy consumption in the United States. A further 2.5% of United States energy consumption was used by cooling systems required to cool the servers.

http://www.box.net is the most secure, easy-to-use way to share and manage files online.” [their words, not mine - ed]

…top…



Keep it tidy

Compare a well space message with this:

Keep it tidy. Write your message clearly and review it before sending.
Don’t be scared to use the line-feed or [enter] key – it adds just one character to the actual size of your message, but a well spaced message is much easier to read than a solid block of text.
IF forwarding to a mailing list tidy it up: take out all the superfluous header and footer info, remove any email addresses that are not relevant (protects privacy too) and check than any included URL links actually work. If you spend 15 seconds making the message readable, to save 100 people 15 seconds each when reading it, you will collectively save 25 minutes to spend on something useful. What goes around comes round.

Is the following easier to read?

Keep it tidy.

Write your message clearly and review it before sending.

Don’t be scared to use the line-feed or [enter] key – it adds just one character to the actual size of your message, but a well spaced message is much easier to read than a solid block of text.

IF forwarding to a mailing list tidy it up: take out all the superfluous header and footer info, remove any email addresses that are not relevant (protects privacy too) and check than any included URL links actually work.

If you spend 15 seconds making the message readable, to save 100 people 15 seconds each when reading it, you will collectively save 25 minutes to spend on something useful.

What goes around comes round.

…top…



Employment Scam

Internet Fraud Warning

Do Not Pay Any Fees As A Result Of An Offer Made By Email

Veggies Catering Campaign has been victim of Identity Theft leading to an employment scam via a fake email job offer, but the real victims of the fraud are people from overseas who may be conned into paying fees to follow up a fake job offer from Veggies.

The original scam email pretends to come from Veggies, but is actually sent by daystarcommunication.star@gmail.com . This has already been identified as a fake address – our advice is to “always be wary of any unsolicited approaches from strangers that offer you jobs”. …read more…


Scam and Hoaxes – forwarding warnings?

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Pat at Veggies
Date: 2008/10/30
Subject: Re: Beware – Postal Scam
To: far too many people

The 4 generations of your message have gone to at least 35 people (and we’ve received it three times now). If they each mailed 35 more, and so on, imagine the wasted traffic and reading time. 35 x 35 x 35 x 35 = 1.5 million wasted messages. “Just hit the delete key” is our usual advice, but even if that took ‘just a second’ that collectively adds up to 17 wasted days, between people who you regard as friends.

Please check before forwarding spams and ‘scams’.

Often virus warnings and scam warnings are themselves scams and spams.

The worst effect that they have is to clutter up everyone’s mailboxes, tie up their time in checking them and burn up bandwidth.

You can easily check, for your own benefit as well as everyone else’s, before forwarding on by simply copying the relevant bit of the message into a search engine.

A search for “0906 6611911″ brings up plenty of advice including:

from http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.html?t=297586

“ICSTIS closed that phone line down at the end of last year and are getting loads of emails and calls because people have started sending the warning emails again. They have issued a press release about it, link is http://www.icstis.org.uk/pdfs_news/email.pdf”

…top…


Spam Content Checking

If you send out a newsletter yourself or regularly post messages to mailing lists (using the BCC facility or an email group) you will want to ensure that your messages do not get wrongly blocked by spam-filters.

Lyris ContentChecker filters your message through several hundred Spam Assassin tests to determine if it has characteristics typical of unsolicited “spam” mail. See details of this free service at http://web0.lyris.com/resources/contentchecker/

I recommend avoiding words in your heading like ‘URGENT’, Hello (and nothing else), ‘Beloved Friend’. These go straight to my spam bin, as would any offers of unearned wealth from Nigeria! It is amazing that spammers are still finding even the one in a million that they need to make these spams and scams pay.

…meanwhile…

An anti-spam utility, co-incidentally called “Spamish Inquisition” is in early stages of development. It is an SMTP server which detects spam during the inbound SMTP connection and, in cases of spam, deployes resource-wasting counter-measures against the spamming server. See http://www.freenet.org.nz/python/mtaproxy/

…top…



Spam Gourmet

spamgourmet provides free disposable email addresses, a strong spam blocker & a short learning curve.

You can give a disposable addresses to people that might create spam. You set the number of emails you are happy to have sent to you, via that temporary address. Surplus & unwanted emails beyond the number you choose will then be eaten by the SpamGourmet.

Check it out at http://www.spamgourmet.com/

…top…



Glossary:

spamish inqisition
email bankruptcy: n. choosing to delete, archive, or ignore a very large number of email messages without ever reading them, replying to each with a unique response, or otherwise acting individually on them.

  • Collect the email addresses of everyone you haven’t replied to. Paste them into the BCC field of a new message you’ll send to yourself.
  • Write a polite note explaining your predicament. Apologize profusely – and promise to keep up with your email in the future. Try to sound credible.
  • Ask for a resend of anything particularly pressing, and offer to give such messages special attention.

Munge: changing your email address when posted on the web, or newsgroups etc, so that it cannot by ‘harvested’ by spammers. See http://www.mailmsg.com/SPAM_munging.htm

Spam: Unsolicited usually commercial e-mail sent to a large number of addresses.

Trash: Emails selected for deletion by personal choice, either individually or by the use of filters.

Tofu: Like spam, but bulk mailed in (misguided) good faith as being of interest to others in your community – but not to you.

References

http://help.riseup.net/mail/spam/

http://www.gn.apc.org/support/how-avoid-email-spam

The secret of happiness: delete all
‘I am going back to voice communication as my primary mechanism for interacting with people,’ wrote one US blogger
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2007/jun/11/comment.comment

Coping with Email Overload: 20 ideas
http://blogs.technet.com/usefultechnology/archive/2006/06/19/437148.aspx

Coping with an email overload
http://www.living-it.co.uk/pages.asp?id=239

…top…


Waddya mean, you’ve never expected The Spanish Inquisition??